Retail industry challenges that demand a more mature Testing organization
We live in a digital world and mobile society. It has changed our lives completely, more so for retailers. One bad experience, online or on mobile devices and retail customers are gone forever.. Unlike most industry domains such as banking & financial or healthcare, retail industry is uniquely challenged with high operational overhead and lower profit margin. Overheads include maintaining large number of retail stores where as profit from selling a merchandize could be as low as few pennies. Plus, IT systems are still expected to provide the same level of quality what banking or healthcare industry may require.
In this blog, I am presenting challenges that specifically demand an efficient SDLC process backed by faster software development as well as efficient testing process.
· Legacy applications supporting huge merchandise data
Today's customers demand one-stop shop making top retailers as well as supermarkets, to carry as many as 300,000 merchandise items. Concern is - most large retailers' IT systems were designed 20-30 years back and endless software releases have resulted in spaghetti code making testing, complex and code coverage - ineffective. Hence, retailors ought to institute an end-to-end testing process and provision variety of test data in non-production environments to successfully test all applications, especially in medium to large sized programs.
· Relatively new concept of online grocery
As mobility is spreading its wings, retailers are required to host entire physical store on customers' fingertips. Mobile and online shopping are no more an option but preferred shopping methods. This trend necessitates a robust mobile application. Hence, requires a relatively new type of testing i.e. Mobile Testing.
· Retail promotions
Unlike other domains of industry, most retailors publish marketing fliers for daily or weekly merchandize promotion. In addition, coupons and price match policies now require IT applications be available on multiple retail channels. Any delays or error in configuring and testing the promotion systems, can impact speed to market of the product or promotions. On top of it, intense competition demands rigorous and efficient regression testing.
· Global presence, e-commerce and online shopping trends
Global presence, ecommerce and online shopping trends are pushing retailer's corporate security departments to inject secure software development practice. From a testing perspective, QA departments are now on the hook to develop security testing framework and tools to ensure web applications are safe.
· Retail - Mobile POS Security and Infrastructure
The nature of retail sales processes and devices being used makes infrastructure & security testing, crucial. Recently a top US supermarket chain had major security issues with its POS (Point of Sale) system. Credit card reader was storing and transmitting credit card number to hacker's site. Result - Scared customers and a dent in the organization's reputation. Increasing POS applications, in-store mobile/ POS device, POS credit card devices, credit card enabled mobile apps, credit card reader devices as well as new NFC technology - these demand an effective security testing and a thorough testing of the underlying infrastructure.
· 24/7 Uptime for POS application
24/7 uptime for POS applications is another unique challenge for retail IT. POS applications such as store billing, back office and pharmacy are, top customer facing applications that need to function accurately all the time. This requires application availability testing to be performed on all retail POS applications.
· Global and large employee base demanding robust HR payroll applications
Large retailers may process as many as 200,000+ pay checks per week. In addition, HR/ Payroll systems are subjected to government's HR regulation - on a constant basis. This demands efficient and effective regression testing. HR Regulations may be country and/or language specific. This brings additional testing needs i.e. localization testing, specifically for the global retailors.
· Supply chain and ever changing retail suppliers & vendors
One of the most critical functions of retail industry is Supply chain management (SCM), which is hugely dependent on IT as it tracks even the minutest detail of raw material to finished products. Any abnormality or error in order management, payment processing or merchandise tracking, has huge potential to bring the businesses down in minutes.
Unlike many other industries, retailers are constantly required to induct, maintain and retire suppliers, ensuring no payments done for the retired ones. This warrants a robust regression testing else retailers may end up making false payment to incorrect suppliers.
Although challenges of test data, new testing types, or vendor driven testing process is not specific to retail but the underlying business reasons are different. So, no matter what industry sector an organization is, an organized and independent software testing concept is not an option but need. Such a need can be very well, fulfilled by effective implementation of Testing Center of Excellence (TCoE).
In my next blog, I will talk about best practices and testing tools that can help overcome above challenges.